Father Dave answers a question from a caller in Pittsburgh named Audrey, who’s concerned about being unable to get to church on Sunday. She asks, “If I am unable to make it to Mass due to bad weather or some other reason, does watching Mass on TV fulfill my Sunday ministry obligation?” In short, Father Dave answers “no,” but also clarifies that in the event of an illness or emergency, our obligation is waived for that day.
Audrey worries that external factors like snow or extreme weather may keep her from making it to Church, and asks when missing Mass becomes a sin that necessitates Confession. In response, Father Dave emphasizes the distinction between being unable to get to Mass and being unwilling to get to Mass, saying, “More often than not, if it feels like a sin, it’s a sin. And if you are like, ‘boy, it would be unsafe for me to do that,’ then that’s not a sin. The Church doesn’t want you to be unsafe.” Father Dave explains that safety is the Church’s first priority when it comes to getting to Mass.
Understanding that not all people have safe travels to get to Mass, Father Dave says, “I think there’s a little bit incumbent on us to do our best to try and get there but no… you should not feel bad about keeping yourself safe, not shoveling wet snow and getting a heart attack, and not having a little accident on the way to Church.” Father Dave clarifies that while watching Mass on TV or online is great for growing spiritually and may be a beneficial alternative to other options, it is not required nor does it fulfill the Sunday obligation.
Touching on a larger claim, Father Dave also highlights the importance of using our consciences to determine what is the right thing to do. He explains, “St. Thomas Aquinas says that we need to use the Church teaching to form our conscience and obey our conscience and not just have somebody else tell us ‘yes, no, yes, no yes, no’… that’s for kids.” Thus, the answer to Audrey’s question partially relies on the personal conscience, judgment, and discretion of those faithful trying to decide if getting to Mass is a safe option.